Palliative Care: Karen’s Story  

Karen was a 40-year old recently widowed woman who was diagnosed with kidney cancer in the spring of 2012. There were limited treatments available for her cancer and prognosis for her advanced disease was not good. The Hospice of Waterloo Region received a call from the school social worker at the end of September 2012, when Karen’s six-year old son was found to be missing school on a regular basis. Karen was living alone in a small apartment and her disease had advanced to such a point that walking more than a block would render her out of breath and dizzy. She could drive her son to school, but in order to drive she had to refrain from taking her pain medication.  

Karen was a private person and fiercely independent. She knew that she was dying but was continually hopeful that she would live until the end of the school year. After a worker from The Hospice of Waterloo Region reached out to her, Karen agreed to have a volunteer visit weekly and to accept assistance with tasks like shopping.  

As she grew to trust the staff at the hospice, she asked for information on funeral arrangements for someone with no income and for counsel on what documents would be necessary for her to have her 22-year old daughter become her son’s guardian upon her death.  

Even though Karen did not want to talk about dying, staff at the Hospice were able to offer counseling to Karen’s daughter who was overwhelmed by the prospect of her mother’s death and becoming a parent to her little brother.  

Counseling in this situation was intense over a short period of time to stabilize a situation that was changing on a weekly basis. Referrals to other community services for her daughter were made to assist her with managing her new situation.  

To support people like Karen, the Waterloo Wellington LHIN has invested $1.2 million over three years to Hospice of Waterloo Region to develop an Advance Care Planning Program in Waterloo Wellington. As a result, more residents will have support in preparing for their end-of-life care.

more residents will have access to end of life care planning resources that will improve their end of life care